2023 NCAA college basketball season preview
🏀 The setup
There are 360 women’s basketball teams and 362 men’s squads spread across 32 Division I conferences. Only 68 women’s and men’s teams will advance to the national tournament (March Madness), with 32 teams automatically qualifying by winning their conference.
- The other 36 are selected by an NCAA committee based on metrics like their record, strength of schedule, and the quality of their wins and losses. Literally every game counts.
The hoopin’ runs from today through early spring with teams playing an average of approximately 30 regular-season games before beginning their respective conference tournaments. Then comes Selection Sunday (aka when the March Madness brackets are revealed), which is set for March 17th.
- The madness culminates with the women’s Final Four, tipping off from Cleveland, OH, on April 5th, followed by the men’s in Glendale, AZ a day later.
👑 Top women’s teams
🐯 No. 1 LSU Tigers: Topping the preseason poll for the first time ever, the reigning national champs will once again be led by superstar forward Angel Reese. And LSU didn’t just renovate their locker room this offseason — they revamped their roster, too, picking up arguably the nation’s top two transfers: guards Hailey Van Lith and Aneesah Morrow.
🐺 No. 2 UConn Huskies: After a season cursed with injuries and illness, UConn’s back, baby. The legendary program owns the NCAA record for most consecutive Sweet Sixteen appearances (29), and with star guard Paige Bueckers and Canadian forward Aaliyah Edwards leading a stacked (and healthy) roster, expect the Huskies to extend that streak.
🪶 No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes: In what could be last season’s National Player of the Year Caitlin Clark's final collegiate season, the Hawkeyes will need their full roster, including standout fifth-year guard Gabbie Marshall, to snag the logo-shot queen an NCAA ring.
🐻 No. 4 UCLA Bruins: 2022’s top recruiting class, including Kiki Rice, Londynn Jones, and Gabriela Jaquez will take the court as now-seasoned sophomores. Leading the young stars? Senior Charisma Osborne, who withdrew from the WNBA Draft to keep hoopin’ for the Bruins.
💪 Honorable mentions: Despite being knocked out in last year’s semis, it’d be foolish to underestimate either the aforementioned No. 6 South Carolina Gamecocks or No. 8 Virginia Tech Hokies.
- And while South Carolina’s in their rebuilding era, the Hokies return center Elizabeth Kitley and guard Georgia Amoore to cause even more ruckus than last season. Watch this space.
⛹️ Top men’s teams
🐦 No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks: This program might just be the luckiest in the NCAA. After last season’s dismal follow-up to their 2022 championship, the Jayhawks astoundingly escaped serious penalties from a corruption investigation, scored the top transfer in senior big-man Hunter Dickinson (from Michigan), and the preseason’s No. 1 rank.
- With three returning starters, including Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Dajuan Harris, will the Jayhawks’ luck continue? Or will March see them clicking their heels back to Kansas early?
😈 No. 2 Duke Blue Devils: Second-year HC Jon Scheyer’s Blue Devils are also repping the blue bloods. With one of the nation’s best centers in seven-foot sophomore Kyle Filipowski, a backcourt of talented guards, and something to prove after exiting March Madness in the second round, expect these Devils to bring out the pitchforks.
♨️ No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers: The Boilermakers shined last season, sweeping the Big Ten season and tourney titles en route to a coveted No. 1 March Madness seed…only to fall in the first round. But with the last-minute return of reigning National Player of the Year and Canadian senior center Zach Edey, this could be the season Purdue boils to the top.
✳️ No. 4 Michigan State Spartans: Few thought the Spartans could make the Sweet Sixteen last season, but legendary HC Tom Izzo — who’s led MSU to an NCAA record 25 (!!!) straight Madness tourneys — is famous for being surprisingly successful in March.
- With the nation’s No. 3 recruiting class and four returning starters, this squad should Sparty hard this season.
💪 Honorable mentions: Last season taught us to not to discount anyone, so sleep on the former Final Four squads at your own peril: Reigning champs No. 6 UConn lost their national title stars, but No. 10 Florida Atlantic returns nearly their whole roster. As for No. 13 Miami and No. 17 San Diego State, they’re rich in sunshine and top talent.
📺 What to watch
The women will make history by starting today’s 2023–24 season Parisian-style. No. 10 Notre Dame meets No. 6 South Carolina in Paris, France, at 1 p.m. ET, but no need to book a flight — just pour a café au lait and tune into ESPN in the U.S. or TSN4 in Canada.
And while the women’s season begins with three ranked matchups, the fellas are easing into things, with Top 25 squads playing largely inferior foes to begin the week.
- Today’s best men’s game? The 10 p.m. ET bout between No. 21 USC and Kansas State (one of last season’s Elite Eight teams), airing on TNT in the States. Pop that corn.